eponine is tough, and she knows it. she knows her way around a sailor’s knot and a crow’s nest, a fishing net and a prow. she knows that her hands are rough, rougher than the hands of any girl so young have a right to be. she also knows that no matter how tough she is, she shouldn’t have survived being knocked overboard during the worst sea storm in memory.
eponine washes up on the beach with waterlogged trousers, salt in her lungs, sea weed in her hair, and the strange sensation of soft lips pressed against hers. men in darkened taverns and grimy watering holes say that she’s blessed. they tell tales of beautiful maidens with the tails of fish who save the worthy from the ocean’s wrath. “mermaids,” they whisper, drunken and awed. eponine doesn’t pay them any mind. she knows better than to believe in what she has not seen, and she thinks herself too smart for old sailors’ stories. she goes back on her dreary lodgings on the docks and waits for the next ship to come in.
then the shells come. beautiful shells, whole and unbroken, glimmering pearly white in the light of the sunrise. they appear every morning on her terrible little windowsill, the one that looks out over the dank, smelly water of the docks. sometimes there are smooth stones as well, or bits of sea glass; once, eponine finds a few strands of long blonde hair, tinged green, tangled in the spiral of a conch shell.
one morning, eponine wakes with the sunrise, as she always does, but there are no shells on her windowsill. instead, there is a girl on her doorstep - a beautiful girl with wobbly, coltish legs, pearly eyes, and long light hair, cast green. “hello,” she says, and her voice is creaky with unuse, like a fine flute rusting in the hull of a shipwreck. “hello. i am human now, like you.”
"what were you before?" eponine asks.
the strange, fair girl smiles, and eponine feels like she is watching the sun come up for the second time that day.